|The Plot: Our film begins with an anonymous killer murdering a member of the MacGrieff family, a very wealthy family who have a massive castle located in Scotland. Our story then introduces us to Corringa, the beautiful and youngest of the MacGrieff family who is on vacation from school. We watch as she arrives home to visit her mother and aunt Mary, but soon finds herself wrapped up in a very dark mystery. Within the house is Suzanne, the bisexual and incredibly beautiful French teacher who tutors the black sheep of the family James. James is Corringa’s cousin and is generally considered a mad man by the majority of those around him. The story is that he killed his baby sister when he was but a boy! As bodies start to pile up, Corringa is caught up in a whirlwind of questions. What is that gorilla doing staring at her through the window? Who is the killer and does the slightly crazy James have something to do with this? Also, what is going on with Corringa’s uncle and the slutty Suzanne? As she digs into these mysteries she finds that the MacGrief family has a curse upon it. It is said that any time a MacGrieff is killed by another blood relative, they are allowed to come back as a vampire and be avenged by themselves or another member of the family! Is this all just hocus pocus/mumbo jumbo, or is that precisely what is going on in the MacGrieff household right now?|
The definition of a Giallo tends to be relatively disputed amongst its most hardcore of fans. Considering Seven Deaths in the Cats Eye doesn’t take place in Rome, is centered around a castle and generally has very little amateur-sleuthing to it, I am sure there are a few fans out there who would questions its authenticity within the genre. Although I wouldn’t count myself as an expert on the subgenre, I will say that during my quest through these films I have noticed that the genre can be fairly expansive to say the least. Films such as Death Laid an Egg (with its utter bizarre non-linear storytelling) and The House WIth the Laughing Windows (which is a much more gothic and cerebral piece of horror) both show how difficult it can be to really define what it is that makes these films part of a unit. If you want to get right down to the basics of what a Giallo is, they are nothing more than detective stories told in rather lurid form. With that context in mind, and with all of our preconceived notions of black gloved killers, straight razors, writers on vacations solving crimes and floating red curtains, all sitting firmly in the back seat, I feel totally confident in Seven Deaths in the Cats Eye‘s place within Giallo film history.
Seven Deaths… ultimately seems like a case of the filmmakers doing anything slightly odd that will distinguish themselves from the pack. The change of atmosphere and location is simply the starting point for the strange twists that this movie has in store for you. During the course of the film it throws a very strong supernatural atmosphere in the mix and even has us questioning whether a cat or giant gorilla might actually be involved in these murders. The supernatural element isn’t an entirely new concept for this genre, the previously reviewed The Killer Reserved Nine Seats was definitely successful in mixing both atmospheres together. I think the idea, confounding the audience as to whether this is a mortal tale or something more supernatural, is exotic and generally works well when done with all of the right elements. I think Margheriti does a good job in setting the atmosphere and the major dream sequence of the film where we first come in contact with an actual ghost is very eerie to say the least. However, the addition of the gorilla during the first quarter of the movie just sends my eyebrows from a furrow to standing at full attention. For one, I call this animal a gorilla but the movie does not. It is actually referred to as an orangutan during the movie, but in my eyes it is much more in line with a gorilla. Now, as for the cat, I have mixed feelings on its inclusion. While I think the cat remains an interesting visual motif throughout the film, the way the movie sort of hurls this concept at you gets rather tired over time. It’s a mix of good and bad, much like the majority of the picture.
The movie looks absolutely fantastic, I can’t deny that. Shot in glorious widescreen, every inch of the frame is filled with amazing color and set design. The castle location turns out to be a brilliant move as it becomes a new character within the picture. We have many of the classical ideas of hidden passages that are revisited for “modern” audiences and this setting really becomes integral for the atmosphere of the story. Mysterious and strange, it really works. The music provided by Riz Ortolani also works very well in this regard. The booming, but always beautiful, score adds another layer of class on what could have very easily been a rather ridiculous piece of genre cinema. In fact, it may still be considered that by most audiences, but even they must admit that Ortolani did his best to class up this piece. Best known for his work with Ruggero Deodato and Lucio Fulci, Ortolani is sometimes overshadowed amongst the great Italian composers but he has always remained of interest to me. Speaking of the Godfather of Gore (Lucio Fulci), there are a couple of other elements that tie this movie with his work. For one, there is of course the actual “gore” on display. To be honest there is only one gory sequence throughout and it is the examination of a rotting corpse. The actual murders are all relatively tame and feature razors being dragged across the neck of a victim followed by their red-paint covered hands covering up their supposed wounds. We also have Venantino Venantini in the cast, best known for his work in Fulci’s City of the Living Dead, playing the part of a priest and getting to mix things up quite a bit. He is an actor who has a great face that allows him to play generally any role. Venantini may be the most well known actor in the credits for Eurocult fans, although Jane Birkin apparently has her own devoted set of followers (primarily for her work in Antonioni’s Blow Up) as well.